The need to replace aging equipment and buying ahead of projected sticker-price increases in 2007 fueled strong new truck sales in 2005 for almost every heavy-truck maker in the North American market, fostering a wave of new partnerships and acquisitions.

Volvo Trucks North America and sister company Mack Trucks together sold 53,749 Class 8 trucks in 2005, up from 40,993 in 2004.

AB Volvo, parent company of both Volvo Trucks and Mack, benefited from those numbers as revenues climbed 15% and net income jumped 32%, giving it the cash with which it acquired a 13% stake in Japanese truck manufacturer Nissan Diesel from Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. for $195 million. That marked AB Volvo’s largest foray into Asia since 2000 when it took a 3.3% stake in Mitsubishi Motors Corp. in an attempt to control a 20% share of then-fledgling Mitsubishi Fuso Truck & Bus Co. But that plan was aborted when DaimlerChrysler AG bought AB Volvo’s stake for $297 million in 2001.

Freightliner LLC, the DaimlerChrysler’s U.S. truck manufacturing subsidiary, also owner of the Western Star and Sterling nameplates, posted big gains in 2005, selling some 94,900 Class 8 units compared with 73,731 units the prior year. Although overall revenue for DC declined to $6.39 billion in 2005 from $7.12 billion in 2004 – largely due to $1.35 billion in global restructuring costs – its commercial vehicle division, of which Freightliner is a huge piece, saw profits soar to $2.58 billion from $1.59 billion in 2004.

Although Navistar International Corp. enjoyed a Class 8 sales rise to 46,093 units in 2005 from 38,424 in 2004, it still struggled financially – delaying the filing of its 2005 annual report and securing a $1.5 billion loan at the close of the year.

Paccar Inc.’s two truck brands – Kenworth and Peterbilt – put together a good showing in 2005, racking up Class 8 sales of 57,427 units vs. 49,349 units the previous year, pushing revenues and profits to new highs. In 2005, Paccar generated a record $14.06 billion in revenues – a 23% increase over 2004 – and earned 25% higher profits of $1.13 billion.

Those results boosted confidence among Paccar’s dealers, especially for W. Marvin Rush, chairman of Rush Enterprises, the largest Peterbilt dealership chain in the U.S.

“We expect the truck market in 2006 to exceed 2005’s near record levels,” he said. Even though he expects new truck sales to decline in the first half of 2007 because of new emission standards, he doesn’t expect that downturn to last for long. “We expect sales to rebound in the second half of 2007 and be followed by strong markets in 2008 and 2009,” Rush explained.